With the 9th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the Rangers selected 18 year old Russian forward Vitali Kravtsov from the KHL. The left-handed shooting winger stands at 6’4 and 183 lbs and uses that size along with some smooth hands, quick feet, and a nifty wrister. However, the reaction to Kravtsov getting selected at 9 was... tepid considering that names like Oliver Wahlstrom and Evan Bouchard were still on the board, and there was much consternation in Rangerstown over the pick.
Looking at the box score stats, you can see the reason behind some of the negativity. In his draft season, Kravtsov put up 3-4-7 in 35 KHL games during his first year playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk. Those numbers are... fine, but at 9th overall they don’t really pop out and draw you in, do they?
Well, it’s a good thing we don’t have just those box score stats to go by, see Tom a couple of weeks ago wanted to put some context into what to expect from Kravtsov in his first post-draft year now that he’s decided to stay in the KHL for one more season. That is a great look at what to expect from Kravtsov, but what about what he’s already done?
Using the same tools, player pool, and updated NHLe conversion factors I’m going to dive into our new favorite Russian boy’s draft season and compare it to other notable Russian players, the last ten 9th overall picks, and take a look at how those players progressed or regressed in their Draft +1 season (their first post=draft season).
First up is a look at Kravtsov as he compares to the draft years of some of his Russian friends. As you can see in the above chart, Kravtsov’s 12.2 NHLe falls well within range of the Russian forwards; it’s most comparable to Evgeny Kuznetsov and getting close to the Rangers’ other young Russian forward Pavel Buchnevich. A couple of other things that stand out: Vladimir Tarasenko’s draft season was ridiculously good and only helps to highlight just how sad and tragic the loss of Alexei Cherepanov was and still is today.
Another thing to note is that the players in these charts span across a dozen years and while many played in the KHL, some older players like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Malkin played in the Russian Super League, the predecessor to the KHL so while NHLe is a great tool, keep in mind that these are not direct one to one comparisons.
With all of this in mind let’s take a look at how these players all performed in their draft+1 year as well as the difference in their NHLe from draft year to post draft season.
So, first NHLe column is Draft Year, the second is Draft+1, the third is the difference between the two, and finally the league in which that player played during their post draft season. What we see here is that, minus a few outliers, almost every single player sees a major bump up in their NHLe as their playing time increases or they move up a league. With Kravstov going back to the KHL this season, with this information in mind, it should be something to look forward to.
Now while it’s good to look at some of his countrymen, let’s put Vitali in the perspective of his fellow 9th overall picks going back a decade.
A caveat here, as I’m sure you all know; Mikhail Sergachev, Jacob Trouba, Dougie Hamilton, and Jared Cowen are all defensemen so the numbers are again not a direct comparison. Now while Kravtsov’s NHLe might seem low when compared to his fellow 9th overall forwards, Vitali is playing in the second best league in the world. Kravtsov spent his draft season playing against much tougher competition than guys like Nikolaj Ehlers or Michael Rasmussen did when they were going up against teenagers in the CHL.
Looking at all of these numbers help us establish some context and help fill in some of the pieces to the puzzle that is Vitali Kravtsov but it won’t give us the full picture, at least not yet. Kravtsov going back for another year in Russia is not the end of the world and could in fact be the best thing for his development.
The Rangers have entered uncharted waters, for them at least, going into a full fledged rebuild and Kravtsov will look to be a major cornerstone on West 33rd for years to come. If the evidence we have is any indication, it looks like Kravtsov will fill that role sooner rather than later.